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Mentoring: Building a sense of community

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As part of our Mentoring programme, we aim to assist the transition of mentees into the sector by pairing them with experienced humanitarians who are working in their chosen field.

Not only do mentors provide technical guidance and information on the humanitarian sector, but they also help mentees to identify career paths and other opportunities. Mentors are able to draw upon their substantive real-life experience in order to provide practical advice to mentees. They receive complete support throughout the journey from RedR which includes free online training. 

RedR UK paired Suzanne Wargo and Katrina Elliot Myerson, based upon their experience and objectives for participating the programme.

The Mentor and Mentee

                                                                                                     

Katrina is a protection specialist with 10 years’ experience in the sector. She has been a member of RedR Australia’s stand by roster since 2011 and has field experience with the UN Agencies in Jordan, and the DR Congo and has also worked extensively in Haiti, Papa New Guinea, Rwanda and Afghanistan. Her motivation for joining the programme was both to build her own capacity and the capacity of others.

Suzanne’s professional experience has been mainly in communications and information management, having worked on projects in Kenya, Nepal, Serbia, the South Pacific and Malawi. She wanted to be partnered with a mentor who would be able to offer her guidance on how to further develop her humanitarian career. She identified one of the principle challenges that she has faced was to define a technical area of expertise she would be able to pursue.

What was your motivation for joining the programme?

Katrina: For me the number one thing is that the humanitarian sector can be so intense and challenging that I think it’s really important that we support each other. You can do your training and build your technical skills but there’s so much else that needs to be learnt, such as the crazy situations that turn up and challenges that you just can’t look up in a book on how to deal with, and having these discussions really helps.

Suzanne: I wanted help with navigating my career.  Before I went to the Solomon Islands and got into international development work I was a school teacher. None of my friends and family work in the humanitarian or development sectors so I wanted some support with guidance…My focus has changed towards looking cash interventions and at the links between Humanitarian Assistance and Social protection, which started to happen during my placement in Malawi and then Fiji. Katrina has been great in terms of being a sounding-board to discuss this and bounce ideas around with,

 

What parts of the programme did you most enjoy, and why?

Katrina: The training was good, I was really impressed with the platform and how it was used. I’ve never done training like that before. I expected it to be a lot less interactive, so I was really impressed by how it was run. I liked how you could break out into separate groups then come back together and share learning. For me, this programme helps to build that sense of community we need to have in the sector… making this an ongoing relationship. My mentee is just back from a mission and last night we had a discussion about being back. It’s not just about the situation when you are there in the field, but thinking about how this looks in the bigger picture and how your work fits in with your life. To me that’s half the challenge and having that relationship once the mission finishes is also really useful.

Suzanne: Having someone who has been there, saying ‘what you’re feeling is normal, what you’re doing is 100% correct, stop being so hard on yourself… I have lots of good friends but they don’t work in the sector so they don’t always relate; so, I just found it so useful having discussions with someone who has been through what I’m going through right now.

(c) Suzanne Wargo

For me, this programme helps to build that sense of community we need to have in the sector… making this an ongoing relationship. My mentee is just back from a mission and last night we had a discussion about being back. It’s not just about the situation when you are there in the field, but thinking about how this looks in the bigger picture and how your work fits in with your life. To me that’s half the challenge and having that relationship once the mission finishes is also really useful.

Katrina Elliot Myerson

RedR Mentor

How do you feel the programme has impacted you?

Katrina: The complete process was really good about helping us think as a mentor - for example, providing us with tools to talk to our mentees about how to achieve an outcome, how realistic it is, and what extra support we may need to get there.

I think the programme is also helpful for the mentor in terms of reflecting, thinking back on my experiences and thinking about how I could have done them differently. I always make an effort straight after a mission but you may not have the opportunity to look back on it 5 years later with the wealth of experience you now have.

I really enjoyed the experience and found it really valuable. I’ve been involved in other mentoring programmes which were not so successful. The benefit here was that we had similar expectations so were on the same page. This isn’t just a networking opportunity. The success here was through setting up and managing expectations.

(c) Katrina Elliot Myerson

Suzanne: I’ve learnt some new techniques, or was reminded of them, for networking, working with challenging people and managing expectations, which also ties in with my confidence and feeling like I am still relatively new to the sector. Also, I’m thinking of staying in Australia for the next 6 months to have some time to regroup but I am nervous about that impacting on my career so having Katrina to talk to about that is reassuring- it’s nice having that safe person to listen and guide without judgement

 

Get Involved

Join our Mentoring Scheme or become a RedR Affiliate.